The Biden administration said it intends to deploy some 1.6 million doses of monkeypox vaccine this year. Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC
June 29 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has announced plans to increase the availability of monkeypox vaccines and testing as the number of cases of the rare disease has passed 300 nationwide.
The White House said in a statement Tuesday that the Biden administration has launched the first phase of its national monkeypox vaccine strategy that will provide shots to those across the country at high risk.
Specifically, the administration said it will deploy nearly 300,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine over the coming weeks, 56,000 of which will be released immediately from the national stockpile to sates and jurisdictions with the highest number of cases and population at risk.
As manufactures produce more vaccine doses, the Department of Health and Human Services expects more than 750,000 to be made available throughout the summer and an additional 500,000 to be released throughout the fall for a total of 1.6 million this year, it said.
"The goal of the initial phase of the strategy is to slow the spread of the disease," The White House said.
The two-dose Jynneos vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use against both smallpox and monkeypox in people 18 years of age or older.
To date, vaccines have only be administered to those who have been exposed to the virus but the CDC is recommending that these newly released doses be provided to confirmed monkeypox exposures and presumed exposures.
"This includes those who had close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox, those who know their sexual partner was diagnosed with monkeypox and men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading," it said.
The U.S. outbreak is occurring amid one in Europe where health officials have said most cases were men who have sex with other men.
The Biden administration's plan also includes scaling up and decentralizing testing as well as bolstering efforts on education and community engagement, it said.
The announcement was made less than a week after it was announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had begun shipping monkeypox tests to five commercial laboratory companies.
On Tuesday, the White House that this will "dramatically improve convenience for patients and healthcare providers across the nation" with expectations that they will come online in July and then ramp up capacity throughout the month.
Meanwhile, the CDC on Tuesday activated its Emergency Operation Center to monitor and coordinate its response to the outbreak and mobilize resources.
In a statement, the federal health body said the move will allow it "to further increase operational support for the response to meet the outbreak's evolving challenges."
The United States detected its first confirmed case of the outbreak mid-May and since then the CDC has tallied 306 cases in 27 states and the District of Colombia.
The first case of the current global out break was detected in Britain in early May. On Monday, the World Health Organization said it has confirmed 3,413 cases of the virus from 50 countries and territories. There has only been one death connected to the current outbreak, it said.
The announcement was made days after the WHO's independent committee of experts said they had determined the monkeypox outbreak does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.